The Nullarbor. Made to be Driven
It’s difficult to really portray the vastness of Australia to people who have never been.
I remember before moving, discussing with a mate in Sydney how I’d ‘drive over’ one weekend from Perth and not quite understanding why he laughed his arse off.
Fast forwards 8 or so years and I find myself in Sydney with my latest purchase and a novel idea of getting it back home to Perth. I’m far from trusting of car transporters at the best of times and at the time had grown wary of jumping on the interstate flight twice a week. So let’s wing it. Let’s see how a well a Boxster can be used as an interstate adventurer.
It’s a Summer Thursday and I now have a challenge. I need to be in Perth for a meeting on Tuesday. I pack up my little Studio in Sydney, filling the Trunk and “Frunk” of the Boxster with my possessions that had formed a temporary life away from home. It might not be quite as mad as it seems on the surface. Some quick Man Maths tells me that the car has enough storage and a high enough range to make it between petrol stations.
A few concerns did crop up with what started as pub-talk. Could I fit in spare fuel? The car has no spare tyre, would I get one (No. No, I wouldn’t.) Can I get 98 the whole way across?
I spend the next hour packing. The Net result was a bonnet full of detailing products due for the warehouse, a boot full of essentials, a passenger’s seat full of a suitcase and somehow a 42″ LCD stored behind the passenger seat. I never understood why a passenger seat on a two-seater would possibly need to flip forwards as if in a hatchback – until now.
Planning the trip I must admit, amounted to a half hour of google-fu and asking for ”fuel stops Nullarbor”. I found some good resources such as this one, but it quickly became apparent that fuel stops would be plentiful every 400 kms or so with the longer stop-gaps being around 200kms at most.
That was enough for me to decide that I could go without going overboard on provisions and supplies. Don’t get me wrong, fuel, blankets, more essentials would have made for a more relaxed ride, but hindsight makes fools of us all, doesn’t it?
My selection of stops was loose and amounted to ‘yeah that’l do’.
There appeared to be enough stops to know that when the range shows as around 300km, to start looking for the next pitstop or two and someone at head office kept in touch with every stop – just incase the worst did happen.
With a daunting road ahead, I took the liberty of setting google to Port Augusta, some 1500 kms away and hiding it in the glovebox as to not keep staring at the car’s sat-nav and make the first leg overwhelming mentally. I’d simply head towards the mountains and then past Canberra, and pull over when I’d had enough for the day. The problem with the time frame was that there was a target to hit each day, otherwise being wary of the fact that the subsequent days would need an even tougher effort.
With the vastness of the road ahead, the plan was to be off the road before dark and on it reasonably after sunrise – this amounted to a 6am take-off and 6pm pull up.
Day 1: Koalas, Kangaroos and Camels
Leg one was rather uneventful. 6 hours on the road, and even spotted a few Koalas. It was an easy drive to calibrate me to the task ahead, and after 4 hours on the road, it dawned on me that I was a 10th of the way into the trip. The main concern for the trip was always going to be comfort. But with each hour the Boxster seemed well suited to the role. Prod the throttle and you’ll get a throaty grunt as you flick through the PDK’s gears and when you’re done with a bit of excitement to break up the monotony, flick her into cruise control. Being still so close to civilisation, the drive was very sedate to give time to nod to the scattering of mobile speed cameras en-route. But more on comfort later, I reach hour 6, low on fuel and high on hunger.
It was all strangely serene. No hassle and no headaches. There were various warnings of Koalas, Kangaroos and Camels but the trip was uneventful although sadly, the road was sadly lined with a deceased Koala or two on the way. Happily though I did see two alive, which for me was a first in the wild. No time for selfies here though with daylight fading. Already somewhat fatigued, I crawly through Wargan, where in the distance a small, dusty storm seems to be heading my way, but fortunately it carried on about its business in the horizon.
With 150kms I found myself gliding along on autopilot before realising that the sensible thing would be to wind down. Eventually I come across Darlington Point and find the nearest motel that looked like it could put up a meaty feed for the night.
I will edit this article when I can remember where exactly it was, but the end result was a comfy bed, some Foxtel and a good steak bought to my door with a couple of beers to keep it company.
Reflecting on the first leg, once you get out of the urban areas, a few things started to come to notice. Mostly, that there were very few cars on the road, certainly not sports-cars which initially worried me – not knowing what terrain I would come up against.
Day 2: The Road to Port Augusta
Day 2 arrived and I Was a little more prepared for the effort ahead. I pack my trusty Boxster and set off to the Caltex 400m away for some more go-juice. Fortunately no problems to be found here, with 98 free-flowing.
Five minutes out-of-town and the winding, dusty road winds out into a 110kph road towards South Australia.
The trip is pegged to be a 9 hour stint, prolonged by the slack left on the table yesterday. The morning routine has now become a long black, a dropped top and gentle warm up to pace. The mornings hit a solid mid 20’s before 8am.
My route would wind past Mildura, Nuritoopa, Lochiel and eventually wound in to Port Augusta. One thing to be aware of is that as you do press on, if you want to stop, you’ll want to slow down well in advance – especially if ground clearance isn’t on your side. Most of the laybys are gravel filled and about as level as the surface of the moon.
As soon as you pull in, you’ll feel like you’ve rolled onto the set of Saving Private Ryan, with enemy machine-gun fire pinging off the bodywork of your trusty battle truck.
It’s a shame, as there are some beautiful stop-points which unfortunately the thought of crawling up to in my otherwise shiny sports car – entirely put me off stopping to take in the view. Of course this meant for some extra progress; so it’s really a win-win.
As I bypassed Adelaide, I started to catch glimmers of sea in the depths of the horizon, and as I began to run parallel with the sea, the voyage suddenly begins to feel like I’m gliding along the coast like a bird with a full belly and no place to be.
He isn’t rushing, he isn’t in need of fuel – he just glides along the streams and soaks in the environment that he was intertwined with. In the middle of the dust, you can make out a twinkle of solar panels as you grunt towards the Peterborough Solar Farm, which is an interesting sight among the monotonous terrain. The feeling heightened as I pulled in to Port Augusta. Some local kids were happy to see the Porsche pull in – looking around I think it was an element of the unusual with 90% of the cars around being 4x4s or utes.
As ever with my lack of planning, I stumble across the Crossroads Ecomotel. A nice, well appointed and unexpectedly comfortable room was the reward. It was later afternoon and the lovely owners offered to cook up a feed, but to be honest, I felt like a walk, some junk food and just unwinding in the room with a beer. They did however let me park my travel partner who I was starting to fall for, by their bedroom – to ensure that it was safe. So a walk to Hungry Jacks, the bottle shop and along the coast was a perfect way to unwind.
That said it was time to put my head down, just in time to do it all again from 7am the next day.
Day 3 and 4 The Wild West.
I woke up, chasing down the home Straight. The usual routine followed and another tank of 98. Today’s whistlestops would include Kmba, halfway across Australia, Boarder Village and Madura. A long 14 hour haul; but crossing the border set the clock back an hour and a half which gave me a huge mouthful of second wind which let me continue the hike a few extra hours into Eucla.
2,900 km in and it just hit me that I’m not growing tired in anyway of the trek. My back is somehow rested when I thought the Boxster would be giving it a kicking. The bland terrain somehow felt different with every 100km that passed – you never really got the feeling that it was ‘painful’.
Hitting the longest straight wasn’t nearly as mind munching as you’d expect – in fact it’s somewhat fascinating. It was utterly empty. The horizon starts to play tricks with you – it’s that straight that the heat creates the same sort of mirage that causes sailors to ‘see’ floating ships at sea. I managed to catch it on the gopro on the leftmost image – that isn’t water in the road, the road merely disappears before your very eyes. Just another trick of the Desert. There had been a surprising lack of animals, I saw what might have been a camel lurking in a ‘paddock’ and a Kangaroo that merely watched me go by but that was it. Really, the cautious part of me things that having the roof down and combining it with high speed wasn’t the smartest move. You might think I diverted to an airport runway in the rightmost photo – actually these are runway markings on the Nullarboar’s main road itself. It’s so remote that emergency aircraft need a place to land.
The plain was a dream road in a sense. Although the Boxster was more at home to the twisties, it was the perfect road to get a feel on the cruisability of the beast. It ate up the 90mile straight in its stride. Drop a gear, squeeze the trigger and you’re awarded with an aural delight, the likes of which you simply don’t get with the newer 4-cylinder Porsches. It wails to the redline, riding that flat-six torque wave into the horizon.
I eventually catch up to Boarder Village – the turn off again looked a bit rough and ready and I was well into chasing the victory on the back of the time zone skip – so I kept going. Eventually I was low on fuel and energy, with sunset an hour or two away. I roll into a motel in Cockelbiddy on the other side of the boarder after having my tightly packed Boxster scrutinized for any lingering apples. Going over the brow of a hill before my stop-off for the night, I pass two eagles, the size of which I have honestly never seen. Easily a meter tall; a Wedge-Tailed Eagle I believe. Terrifying and fascinating.
After an early final-day straight, I blast cautiously out of the gates. It almost felt like I got going a little too early, forgetting about the time difference. The road out of Eucla however was littered in deceased kangaroos – and some live ones (briefly, as one of them was wiped out by a road-train which shrugged it off as if it was a raindrop.)
From here, the road became trundling through the familiar territory of WA from the south-east and moving upwards.
The trip surprised me on the whole. Four long shifts, and getting well and truly acquainted with what was to be the last six-cylinder Boxster and what in my mind is one of the best all-round roadster experiences. You see the roadster was made for this. Long winding roads, sunshine and memories. A chance to really stretch its legs across the entire range. The premier Bose sound system delivering immersive soundtracks and when you wanted something a bit more exhilarating, the open-air brass section coming from the 3.6 Boxer engine.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the 981; and the trip cemented it. If I had my time over, I might take a longer to make a stop off at many of the typical hotspots along the route, but the abridged version did not leave me feeling short-changed.
My main concerns with the trip were a constant supply of 98, comfort and reliability. 98 was plentiful; I didn’t stop at anything other than BP and Caltex and never once struggled for a tank of fuel. That was of course helped by the fact that by some miracle, the Porsche showed 900kms out of a tank. That’s the same as our 1.9 Diesel Renault Trafic van gets out of 80 liters. The every-way adjustable seats not only fall into the perfect driving position, but keep your back supported; held. Not once was I intimidated with the concept of spending another 14 hours at the wheel. It also didn’t miss a beat – which was good given I packed light.
My toolkit and preparation literally consisted off a bit of googling, whatsapp messages to a friend to let them know where I was or was going to be (optus did leave me in the lurch a couple of times in blackspots), and a simple toolkit and battery pack. Animals were a non event but I did take steps to minimise my exposure to ‘dangerous’ times.
It was a spectacular trip, one that won’t be topped until I hit the states in a year or so in an all-american monster. It was a beautiful matching of man and machine – slipping in to a comfortable, high performance pair of hiking boots and chewing up some miles. Great views, Nice, open sports to give her a work out and roof-down front-row seat to the symphony. For now I’ll leave some of my favourite Instagrammable photos that I have to hand from the Go-Pro (np the speedo over-reads by 5kph!)
Thanks to the ceramic coating installed on the car before the journey, the grime simply melted away ready for another journey.